Then-President Donald Trump repeatedly tried to browbeat top Department of Justice officials into investigating his claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, the select committee probing last year’s Capitol riot heard Thursday.
Trump also enlisted a little-known Republican congressman, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, to hound the DOJ to look into the claims and push the elevation of a lower-level official into the position of acting Attorney General, the committee heard.
Three former DOJ officials testified about Trump’s relentless campaign to stay in power and how he hosted a dramatic Oval Office showdown just days before the Capitol riots to weigh replacing the department’s head with an official who was more sympathetic to the 45th president.
The officials said they refused each of Trump’s demands, including Supreme Court lawsuits, because they had found zero evidence of widespread voter fraud.
Donoghue, who was the acting Deputy Attorney General in the waning days of the Trump administration, said the president had an “arsenal of allegations” about a so-called fraudulent election — but he “went through them piece by piece to say, no, they were not true.”
Then-acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen testified that Trump either called or met with him “every day” between Dec. 23, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021 to discuss his voter fraud claims.
At one point, Trump threatened to fire both Rosen and Donoghue because they refused to pursue his claims — and instead install then-Assistant Attorney General, Jeff Clark, because he wanted to champion Trump’s bogus theory.
Trump had Perry try and persuade then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to promote Clark and give him more responsibility in handling the election fraud claims, according to Donoghue.
“He said something to the effect of, I think, ‘Jeff Clark is great and I think he’s the kind of guy could get in there and do something about this stuff,’” Donoghue testified.
Rosen testified that Trump had offered Clark the job of acting attorney general on Jan. 2 and internal call logs showed the White House was already referring to him as the DOJ’s top official by the following day.
During a high-stakes Oval Office meeting, Trump asked the top DOJ officials “What do I have to lose?” by giving Clark the job.
The officials testified they had warned Trump there would be mass resignations within the department if Trump followed through with his plan to have Clark take the reigns. Only then did Trump relent and keep Rosen in place.
“Within 72 hours, you could have hundreds and hundreds of resignations in the leadership of your entire Justice Department because of your actions. What’s that going to say about you?” Donoghue recalled telling Trump.
Clark, who was subpoenaed by the committee, repeatedly invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination during his taped deposition.
The hearing also focused on a number of GOP members of Congress who had aligned themselves with Trump’s claims and later requested pardons in the days after the Capitol riots.
Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) were among those to seek pardons, former White House aide Cassidy Richard said in a pre-taped interview.
Hutchinson also noted that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) “talked about congressional pardons, but he never asked me for one.” She also noted that she had heard that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) “had asked the White House counsel’s office for a pardon … but I didn’t frequently communicate with Ms. Greene.”